Exactly forty-six years ago, in 1970 to be precise – a fairly unknown gap-toothed male soul singer arrived in Cape Town, South Africa for a series of live gigs in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
The Luxurious Theatre in the mother city darkened and suddenly there was a momentary hush before the audience exploded in a deafening roar as the afro-haired African-American ascended the stage with a pinch of arrogance and self confidence, ready to entertain the large crowd in a packed to rafters 1300 seats Theatre.
All the traumas of the ongoing racial tensions were temporarily suspended as a rare spectre of a mixed audience went berserk with ecstasy and emotions with tears of joy rolling freely down the cheeks of those in attendance as they experienced a historic live musical gig never seen before in that neck of the woods. Percy’s presence captured dozens of exciting moments as he sunk his teeth into the smooth lyrics of his hit songs, My Special Prayer and the much liked cover version of the Bee Gees’, I got get a message to you. The appreciative crowd certainly got the message, the King of Soul has arrived and his golden pitchy voice was to change and shape the mindset of the radicals.
Percy’s South African safari opened doors for more live shows to follow and Namibia, then known as South West Africa (SWA), was next on his radar as Percy performed in front of an enthusiastic large crowd at the Katutura Community Hall in 1980. More live gigs followed years later with the King of Soul capturing the imagination of the entertainment-starved Namibian audience. His soul soothing musical repertoire became popular and habitual blurring from car radios and taxis. Local bands took a liking to his style of singing, and one such muso was a fairly young fellow going by the name of Simeon Kanime, aka ‘Sledge” a name that suck to him up to this day after he adopted the at as his own stage name, having been buoyed by none other than Percy himself.
Sadly, the King of Soul took a bow from the game of life at the fairly advanced age of 73 on April 14 last year. In a musical career that took off in the early 1960s, the late Percy produced a number of hits including It tears me up, Warm and tender love, Take time to know her and When a man loves a woman, which towered over them all. In the year of Percy’s first anniversary in the unknown, Namibia’s own mournful Sledge has taken it upon his tiny shoulders to honour his hero in the most dignified way, a live show doing cover versions of his departed mentor.
The mouth-watering live gig, featuring a number of retired and current local musos is billed for the Khomasdal Community Hall tonight, and is a must attend gathering for music lovers. The show kicks off 20h00 to Mama calls and the doors open @19h00 with the entrance fixed at N$50 a person.